Swords are fun. You can smack things with them, wield two at once for ambidextrous mayhem, deflect them away with your own weapon via properly timed counter, or just let them bonk harmlessly off your shield if you’re not feeling fancy. Alternately, if swords aren’t your thing, there’s always clubs, flails, knives, spiked fists, and even weird fancy stuff that would only ever function properly in the confines of a video game. So why does Clan of Champions feel so lifeless?
Clan of Champions is a game about running through a limited number of areas and hitting your opponents with whatever weapon comes to hand. There’s not much to say about the story, the combat lends itself to button mashing, the enemies are all unimaginatively humanoid, and you spend as much time trying to work around your AI teammates getting in the way as you do hitting enemies. Despite this, Clan of Champions can be oddly playable once you’ve accepted all its issues, but at no point will it ever be confused for a good game.
At the game’s start you create a character, choosing from human, elf, or orc. Gender is pre-assigned by race and there’s only a limited number of customization options, but once you get to the combat things open up a bit. There are three styles of fighting you can choose- sword and shield, dual wield, and close combat. Sword and shield is self-explanatory, dual wield is for two standard weapons, and close combat is for quick melee fighting. Each discipline has its own special attacks you can learn, with up to four skills in available battle, and as you gain proficiency in the combat style you can level up your favorite ones. There are also magic skills available, if you want to substitute a combat skill for a spell, because it’s always nice to be able to chuck a fireball across the arena.
As you take on missions and level up, though, it becomes obvious that what you did on the first mission is exactly the same as what you’ll do in the last. The enemies get a bit tougher, and you’ll have a few more abilities to take them down with, but it’s you and a pair of AI helpers against a handful of human-shaped opponents, over and over again. Mages, orcs, skeletons, whatever. Close the distance, work the combos, break their guard, and don’t let up. Level 24’s impressively-armored skeleton isn’t much different from level 1’s people in armor, despite the skelton’s fancy outfit.
Normally that’d be the end of it, barring a mention of a clunky between-mission menu system, but the review copy was of the PC version on Steam, and this introduces a whole host of problems I expect won’t be on the PS3 revision. The only graphics option is a choice between full screen or windowed. The mouse cursor is centered on screen no matter how many times you shoo it away to the side, even when using the controller. It’s probably possible to play Clan of Champions without a controller but a run-through of the tutorial shows this to be a finger-breaking nightmare in the making. Despite using a controller on the tutorial, though, all instructions were for mouse/keyboard, leading to a whole lot of guesswork until I found a button layout, which was for a 360-styled controller. Honestly, this is the laziest PC port I think I’ve ever seen.
In Clan of Champions’s defense, there are several multiplayer options I didn’t get to test. Maybe taking out the enemy is more fun when it’s you and your human teammates coordinating against another group of players. Finding anyone to play with was impossible during the review stage, though, and seems highly unlikely later. It’s possible a game about fighting a bunch of guys in a single room using a bare-bones combat engine might catch on, but the likelihood is pretty low. Clan of Champions is far too stripped down, generic, and forgettable to ever recommend.
Version Reviewed: PC